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Do condoms totally prevent STDs and pregnancy?

Many people have questions about condoms. 

How effective are they? Do you have to use them every time? Will they protect you from STDs? 

We’ve got your back. ThriVe+ is here to answer your questions so you can feel confident. We want you to feel in control of your health and your future. That’s why it’s super-valuable to know about condoms, their effectiveness, and how they can affect your sexual health.

STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) can spread in different ways, not just through the exchange of bodily fluids.

There are some that can spread through skin-to-skin contact. These include:

  • HSV (Herpes)
  • HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
  • Syphilis
  • Pubic lice
  • Scabies

This means that even if you used condoms, if there’s a sore or rash in an area not covered by the condom, you could still get infected. And you might not even know you have an STD. There are some STDs that might not show any symptoms, like herpes.

Mayo Clinic, Sexually transmitted diseases

Can I still get an STD if we used a condom?

Condoms are not foolproof — they have an 18% failure rate for preventing pregnancy. They must be used correctly, each time, to help avoid contracting or spreading an STD. And yes, there is always the risk of the condom breaking. This happens more often than you’d think. That’s a reason why it’s essential to get screened for STDs and pregnancy.

CDC, Contraception

ThriVe+ offers no-cost pregnancy tests that are lab-quality. You’re welcome to call or come in for a test if you’re feeling unsure. “Screening” means getting tested for STDs, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Finding out early if you have an STD is crucial. It helps you get quick treatment and prevents the spread to others.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), people who have been sexually active should get screened for STDs if they have had multiple partners (even if they’ve used condoms). The frequency of recommended testing depends on factors like your age, sexual behavior, and the type of STD. It’s essential to talk to your doctor to figure out what’s best for you.

CDC, STI Screening Recommendations

Talking about it

Communication with your sexual partner is also super important. Maybe you’re considering postponing sex until you are in a committed relationship. Maybe you’ve been sexually active, but you’re concerned about pregnancy or STDs. 

These are totally valid feelings. You have plans and goals for your future. It’s worth protecting them. Talk to your partner about your feelings and your boundaries. He should respect them.

Let’s say that you get tested, and find out that you’re positive for an STD (even if you’ve used condoms). Your future is still bright. Some STDs can be easily treated and cured, and others need more complicated treatment to manage. But it’s important to find out and start treatment as soon as possible to prevent complications. Be honest with your partner. It will help you prevent it from spreading. It’s okay to talk about these things. You should always feel safe talking to your partner about this. Really, you should feel safe and comfortable talking to him about anything. 

Mayo Clinic, Sexually transmitted disease (STD) symtoms

How to protect yourself from STDs and pregnancy

Now, here’s the big takeaway: Using condoms isn’t a guarantee against STDs (or pregnancy). The only surefire way to prevent STDs is by delaying sex until you’re in a committed, monogamous relationship like marriage. But if you’ve been sexually active, getting screened is the next best thing to protect your health and future. You can learn the facts to take care of yourself. Your future matters.

If you’re worried about the cost or feeling judged, there’s help available. ThriVe+ offers no-cost STD testing in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. So don’t hesitate to take care of yourself and get tested regularly.

Still have questions about condoms?

FAQs About Condoms:

1. Do condoms completely protect against STDs?

Condoms aren’t 100% foolproof at preventing STDs. They can slip, break, leak, or be ineffective if they aren’t used properly. Some STDs can spread through skin-to-skin contact, so condoms may not fully protect you against infections like herpes, syphilis, and HPV (the virus that can cause genital warts and cervical cancer).

CDC, Teen Condom Fact Sheet

2. Can I use two condoms for extra protection?

No. Using two condoms at once actually increases the risk of breakage. That’s due to the friction between them.  Delaying sex (for now) is the only way to be 100% protected against STDs or pregnancy.

Cleveland Clinic, Condoms

3. Are there different types of condoms?

A variety of condoms are available, including latex, polyurethane, and lambskin condoms. Some of these might not prevent STDs like HIV. Also, condoms can cause allergic reactions in some people. 

CDC, Contraception

4. Do condoms expire?

Yes, condoms do expire. Expired condoms may be less effective or more prone to breakage. And if the condom has been stored in a hot place or becomes creased, it might be less effective. 

CDC, Teen Condom Fact Sheet

Cleveland Clinic, Condoms 

Condoms don’t 100% prevent pregnancy or protect against STIs, so regular STD screenings are very important to protect your health. If pregnancy or STDs are a concern to you, please take care of yourself. Your goals matter, and so does your health. Our advocates at ThriVe+ are always here to listen, not to judge. Come see us to get checked and informed

Healthy • Safe • Strong

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